Created By: Brandon Inabinet
Main Street, Liberty Bridge, Falls Park--all the staples of the thriving downtown atmosphere are around you. You might wonder how this all got here, and you’ve come to the right place - Sampson and Camperdown Mill.
Though the mill itself no longer remains, Sampson, Hall & Co. was built in 1873--the foundations are still visible in Reedy River Park. Across the river (you can see the remains—pity you didn’t mention them) on the Greenville side, Camperdown Mill once stood directly on the falls of the Reedy River. Camperdown Mill was constructed in 1876 when a Oscar H. Sampson and George F. Hall made a deal with Vardry McBee to expand. According to the City of Greenville official history, Sampson and Camperdown Mill brought a variety of industries to flourish along the river including factories producing paper and weapons, as well as a saw mill and grist and corn mills.
According to the Appalachian History, the Reedy’s waters would flow many different colors depending on which dye was being discarded into the river on any particular day. Unfortunately, the textile mill industry along the banks of the river were the major contribution to the decline of the river and the current state of pollution.
Dave Tabler, editor and author of Appalachian History says at the start of the twentieth century, eight mills employing thousands of workers were in operation within a two-mile radius of the Reedy River. Though Sampson (later called Camperdown #1) and Camperdown (Camperdown #2) brought a lot of neighbors to the falls, Camperdown itself didn’t bring a lot of business or job security for the mill town residents, like many of the other mills coming along the tour. According to clippings of the Greenville News and the Charlotte Observer from the early twentieth century, Camperdown mills experienced many fires, closures, changes in ownership, it opened and closed at the mercy of the economy, and is even classified by Town Carolina as an “financial disappointment.” Due to an increasing import of Japanese fabric and gingham, Camperdown’s production was not needed and the mill ceased operation in 1964. The Camperdown Mill town was eventually consumed by downtown Greenville, the residents moved away, and the mill was eventually torn down.
However, the cessation of Camperdown Mill did not bring about an end for what was now a thriving scene in Downtown Greenville. Neighboring mills along the Reedy continued production, and the new residents and businesses were here to stay. For this reason, most histories of Camperdown Mill jump directly to the flourishing Falls park and Downtown Greenville, and neglect to include the stories of Camperdown’s contribution to river pollution and economic instability.
Bainbridge, Judith. The History of Vardry Mill. Greenville News. Nov 16, 2017.
Connor, Eric. "The History of Greenville's Camperdown Mill." The Greenville News. July 29, 2016.
"Flow Chart - a Look at How Greenville, SC's Reedy River Shaped That City." Appalachian History. January 05, 2014.
Tingle, Stephen. "RUN OF THE MILLS." TOWN Carolina. February 04, 2016. https://towncarolina.com/article/run-mills/.
The Greenville News. Greenville, South Carolina. Sun, Sep 22, 1985 · Page 65.
The Charlotte Observer. Charlotte, North Carolina. Fri, Jul 20, 1906 · Page 1.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Milling Around Greenville, South Carolina